PHOTO CALL: Robert Redford, Roseanne Barr, America Ferrera, Michael Urie and More Celebrate Vanessa Williams' First Bow in After Midnight

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02 Apr 2014

Multi-platinum recording artist and actress Vanessa Williams, who was Tony-nominated for her performance in Into the Woods, began performances April 1 as the new special guest star vocalist in the Broadway musical revue After Midnight.



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Dulé Hill and Vanessa Williams
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN



Having sold millions of albums worldwide, Williams was most recently seen on Broadway in the Tony-nominated play The Trip to Bountiful. Her other credits include Broadway's Kiss of the Spider Woman and Sondheim on Sondheim, as well as the St. Louis Woman for City Center's Encores! As a recording artist, she has garnered 11 Grammy nominations, and she is also known for her three-time Emmy-nominated performance as Wilhelmina Slater in "Ugly Betty."

Read Williams' Favorite Things feature for Playbill.com here.

Williams plays through May 11, and Grammy winner Fantasia Barrino (The Color Purple, "American Idol") — who opened the show (formerly titled Cotton Club Parade, the production conceived by Tony Award winner Jack Viertel that played two engagements at New York City Center) Nov. 3, 2013, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre — will return May 13-June 8.

The new musical reintroduces the Cotton Club's tradition of welcoming the stars of today in limited engagements throughout its run. K.D. Lang made her Broadway debut with the production and was the second headliner. Grammy Award-winning artists Toni Braxton and Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds played their final performances March 30.

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Tony Award winner Adriane Lenox, who appeared in the revue at New York City Center, reprises her performance in the Broadway engagement, which also features Tony Award nominees Desmond Richardson and Karine Plantadit, Grammy Award nominee Everett Bradley and Emmy Award-nominated actor Dulé Hill (Stick Fly, The Tap Dance Kid, "The West Wing," "Psych") as "The Host" of the evening. Hill leads the audience through the heat and glamour of the Harlem Renaissance using the words of Langston Hughes.

Previews of After Midnight began Oct. 18.

The eclectic cast of performers also includes Julius "iGlide" Chisolm from the dance crew RemoteKontrol (he'll reimagine Harlem's popular 1920's "snakehips" dance); hip hop star Virgil J. Gadson; Tony Award-nominated dancers Plantadit (Movin' Out, Come Fly Away) and Richardson (Fosse, Movin' Out); tap dancers Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Jared Grimes; and vocalists Everett Bradley, Cedric Neal, T. Oliver Reid, Monroe Kent, Carmen Ruby Floyd, Rosena M. Hill Jackson and Bryonha Marie Parham.

Dancers for the evening are Marija Abney, Phillip Attmore, Christopher Broughton, Taeler Elyse Cyrus, C.K. Edwards, Bahiyah Hibah, Erin Moore, Justin Prescott, Monique Smith, Daniel WattsDanielle Herbert, Allysa Shorte and David Jennings.

Director-choreographer Warren Carlyle (Chaplin, Follies) and fashion duo Isabel and Ruben Toledo, who designs costumes, join Wynton Marsalis (Jazz at Lincoln Center's nine-time Grammy and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning artistic director) — who hand-picked the big band of 17 musicians — to create the atmosphere of the famed Harlem nightclub in the 1920s and 1930s.

Read the Playbill magazine feature with producer Sanders and singer Lenox

The band includes 17 soloists and ensemble players, including Mark Gross, Godwin Louis, Daniel Block, Andrew Farber and Kurt Bacher on woodwinds; Gregory Gisbert, Bruce Harris, Alfonso Horne and James Zollar on trumpets; Wayne Goodman, Arthur Baron and James Burton III on trombones; Adam Birnbaum on piano; James Chirillo on guitar; Jennifer Vincent on bass; and Alvester Garnett on drums.

Here's how producers Sanders and Marsalis bill the production: "Jazz is a state of mind. It's a structure for innovation, forward momentum and freedom. The evocative new musical After Midnight will take the sexy, smoky glamour of the original Jazz Age and catapult it into a whole new era of heart-pounding, mind-blowing entertainment for modern Broadway audiences. Refracted through a contemporary lens, After Midnight will celebrate Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club using his original arrangements and performed by a world-class big band of 17 musicians hand-picked by living jazz legend, Wynton Marsalis. The timeless tunes set against a narrative of Langston Hughes poetry will provide an authentic backdrop for an array of cutting-edge performances by 25 sensational vocalists and dancers, including special guest stars, whose interpretations will shatter everything you think you know about music, nightlife and Broadway. Welcome to the new Jazz Age."

After Midnight includes pieces by jazz composers of the time, including Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields ("I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "Digga Digga Doo"), Harold Arlen ("Stormy Weather," "I've Got the World on a String," "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea") and Duke Ellington ("Rockin' in Rhythm," "Cotton Club Stomp," "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Creole Love Call").

Other members of the creative team include Peter Hylenski (sound) and Tony Award winners John Lee Beatty (set design) and Howell Binkley (lighting design).

For more information, visit AfterMidnightBroadway.com.